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Funk, God, Jazz and Medicine: When Live Art Imitates Radical Black Life

What is art? How we view it in our minds and how we feel it in our hearts is entirely subjective.

brb-projectID2_20140903What is art?

How we view it in our minds and how we feel it in our hearts is entirely subjective.

However, given even the idiosyncratic nature of art, it shares one common denominator, and that is its ability to arouse personal introspection on our very existence.

On Saturday, September 20, Creative Time in collaboration with Weeksville Heritage Center and artists Xenobia Bailey, Simone Leigh, Otabenga Jones & Associates and Bradford Young will present Funk, God, Jazz, and Medicine: Black Radical Brooklyn, a series of walk-through, live art installations exploring four primary concerns that have played an enormous role in shaping the Black-American existence in Brooklyn.brb-projectID3_20140903Funk, God, Jazz and Medicine will serve as a veritable pop-up museum around the neighborhoods of Crown Heights and Bedford-Stuyvesant, where live art imitates radical Black life.

Curated by Nato Thompson and Rashida Bumbray, the exhibit will offer four consecutive weekends of site-specific workshops, videos, artist talks, clinics and print and broadcast media installations-- an artistic reflection on the social infrastructures that stimulated 150 years of local Black self-determination.

"By engaging the issue of Brooklyn as a contested landscape through the lens of these three critical historical moments—the 1840s abolition and emancipation era, the 1960s civil rights and Black Power movements, and our contemporary moment— these amazing artists in collaboration with their community partners help us all to imagine the future with a historical context in place," said Bumbray.

It was the creativity and activism around keeping these elements alive that became a source of the community's strength, said artist Simone Leigh, "like what the Black Panther Party put forth in the 60s, which is creating self-determined spaces that define actions for the community and a means to give back."

Each of the four projects will be accompanied by free public workshops as well as special events at Weeksville Heritage Center, the historical site of the first Brooklyn community established by free and formerly enslaved Black citizens 11 years after abolition.

The Exhibitions:

(Saturday, September 20 — Sunday, October 12, 2014 Fridays, Saturdays, Sundays 12-6pm)

FUNK: Century 21: Bed-Stuy Rhapsody in Design: A Reconstruction Urban Remix in the Aesthetic of Funk, located at the Weeksville Heritage Center, 158 Buffalo Avenue. For three months, Xenobia Bailey collaborated with students from Boys & Girls High School to design and produce "up- cycled" furniture to "funkify" Weeksville Heritage Center's historic Hunterfly Road homes.

GOD: Bynum Cutler, located at the former site of PS83, 1630 Dean St. Award-winning cinematographer Bradford Young will create a three-channel video installation, a tribute to the Black women, men, and children who embarked on countless journeys in search of refuge. Inspired by late playwright August Wilson, the film is set against the backdrop of Weeksville's historic Bethel Tabernacle African Methodist Episcopal Church.

JAZZ: OJ Radio, located at the intersection of Fulton Street and Malcolm X Boulevard (public plaza). Houston-based artist collective Otabenga Jones & Associates collaborates with the Central Brooklyn Jazz Consortium to produce a temporary community radio station that will broadcast live from the back of a pink 1959 Cadillac Coupe de Ville, paying tribute to former Bed-Stuy cultural center "The East."

MEDICINE: Free People's Medical Clinic?, located at the Stuyvesant Mansion, 375 Stuyvesant Avenue. Simone Leigh will convert the ground floor of the former home of Dr. Josephine English, the first African-American woman to have an OB/GYN practice in the state of New York and midwife to Malcolm X and Betty Shabazz's six daughters—into a temporary space for dignified health care.

"One of the things that we did [with the Free People's Medical Clinic] was create the Waiting Room magazine, featuring poetry, fiction and non-fiction work concerning black people and medicine," said Leigh.

"Also, we'll showcase how many wonderful and therapeutic experiencing are actually going on in Brooklyn, where almost all of the practitioners are black women. So it's also a display of black female power."

For more information and full schedule lineup on Funk, God, Jazz, and Medicine: Black Radical Brooklyn, visit their website.